Notebook: Aldridge reminds teammates everyone must contribute
PORTLAND — Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge did not specifically call anyone out by name. But Aldridge said he did offer a strong, all-inclusive reminder that everyone on the Blazers must contribute for the team to succeed, and that everyone has the talent to do so.
Portland’s bench has severely struggled as of late, and the inconsistent play of the Blazers’ reserves has been one of the only down points as the team has used a late-season surge to ascend in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Reserves Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez and Martell Webster have all carried the Blazers this season, using their energetic play to spark their teammates. In addition, Bayless and Webster have started 60 games, while Fernandez has reached double digits in scoring 23 times.
But each have struggled down the stretch, raising questions as to whether Portland’s once-vaunted bench will become a liability in
With that in mind, Aldridge spoke Thursday to the team. His message: Everyone is needed, and no one should be sulking.
Aldridge said that with the majority of game-time minutes going to the Blazers’ starters, players such as Bayless, Fernandez and Webster have recently lost their rhythm.
“As long as everybody stays in the gym, we should be OK — I’ve lost my rhythm this season,” said Aldridge, prior to Portland’s game Friday against Dallas at the Rose Garden. “As long as guys keep working hard and we stick with them, they’ll come through for us.”
Meanwhile, Blazers coach Nate McMillan said he is not going to give up on anyone. Bayless, Fernandez and Webster have all proven they can deliver, and McMillan believes they will again.
“You try to put them into position to be productive,” McMillan said. “What are we going to do? Those are the guys who have been there all season long. They’ve played well. They’re capable of playing well. … We go with what we have.”
The Blazers will travel a tough road as they attempt to finish as high as possible in the Western Conference.
Portland faces the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, and then the Blazers will host Oklahoma City on Monday to complete a back-to-back. An April 14 contest against always-pesky Golden State at the Rose Garden will finish Portland’s regular season.
Despite an imposing final stretch and the promise of the upcoming
playoffs, McMillan said neither nor his team are looking ahead.
“I’ve said it again and again: Every game is important,” McMillan said. “It’s going to go down to, I think, the last game of the year. We want to play it out and continue to try and get better each night out. Our last game was important, and (Dallas) was important.”
However, McMillan did acknowledge that he sometimes uses the super-tight Western Conference playoff standings as motivation.
“It depends on where we are and if we can,” McMillan said.
The Blazers commemorated the Rose Garden’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification Friday evening with a plaque unveiling.
The arena is the first in professional sports to achieve the mark, which recognizes green building practices for energy, water and natural resource performance.
Adam Silver, NBA deputy commissioner, said the Blazers represent the best that small-market teams have to offer.
Hearing about Portland’s green push is one thing, Silver said. But seeing it in person — everything from bike racks and hybrid cars driven by players to custom-designed garbage cans — is a whole other matter.
“I couldn’t be prouder of this team,” Silver said. “It’s just a fantastic accomplishment.”